By Alan Scherstuhl
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Work is seldom just work in French cinema, and for director Siegrid Alnoy (whose debut feature, She's One of Us, opens Friday), the dominance of corporations in our daily lives presents an existential dilemma. "I think work is a sickness," Alnoy explains. "It empties us of our creative powers and turns us into living ghosts." She adds that her film, which is set in a contemporary French business, isn't about work per se, but our need for identity. "Today, we identify ourselves on the basis of our jobs," she says. "That's not living; it's merely functioning."
As French movies themselves become more corporatized, She's One of Us reminds us that small films still have the most to say about modernity. The Paris-based Alnoy conceived her protagonist, a temp worker named Christine Blanc, as an innocent thrust into a callous world. "Everyone denies her an identity," Alnoy says. "Even after she commits a crime, they deny her that transgression by saying she didn't do it." Christine's extraterrestrial sense of outsiderness doesn't stop Alnoy from seeing her as a wholly sympathetic creation: "I think she's the only human being in the movie. She wants to connect with other people, but society only shows her how to kill."
Alnoy cites the films of Bruno Dumont as an inspiration, and indeed, like Humanité, She's One of Us uses landscape to externalize the psychology of its protagonist. "We filmed in the Rhône-Alpes region, which is the only place in France where the mountains coexist with a hyper-industrialized city," Alnoy says. "It's a divided environment to suggest Christine's own state of mind." Add to that mix a healthy dose of Dostoyevsky: "Like Prince Myshkin, Christine is pure, guided by her own consciousness," explains Alnoy. "She's an idiot in the noblest sense of the word."
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